Practices have begun for the fall sports season at Vermont’s public high schools.
With the varsity football season just a week away, it seems like a good time to check in with a Brattleboro Union High School alumnus who is in the thick of the No. 1 issue facing those who play and coach football and other full-contact sports — how to reduce concussions.
Tyler Maland, a member of the BUHS Class of 2007, is the Chief Impact Officer for the Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF). Maland, who has been with CLF for more than four years, now leads the nonprofit organization’s strategy and execution for all its programs and communications.
CLF says its mission is “to support athletes, Veterans, and all affected by concussions and CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy]; achieve smarter sports and safer athletes through education and innovation; and to end CTE through prevention and research.”
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
According to data from the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a collaboration between the VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston University, and the Concussion Legacy Foundation, of the more than 640 brains that have been donated for research, nearly 400 showed confirmed cases of CTE, including 110 of the 111 former National Football League players who donated their brains after death.
The body of evidence is now considerable that participating in full-contact sports — such as football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and soccer — from a young age increases the risk of long-term brain injury.
That’s why the Vermont Principals Association in 2017 mandated that all middle school football programs would be flag football with full pads and no tackling. This means the 2019 season will see the first group of ninth-grade players that will arrive at their varsity programs without having gone through the banging and clanging of seventh- and eighth-grade tackle football.
In an email interview with Maland, I asked whether this will make a difference in the number of head injuries in football, or is it merely postponing the potential damage?
“At CLF, we strongly encourage parents to delay enrolling their children in tackle football until age 14,” said Maland “Our ‘Flag Football Under 14’ campaign was created to limit the risk of CTE by limiting the number of years football players are exposed to hundreds of head hits. Therefore, we expect the changes the VPA installed will make Vermont athletes safer.”
But it’s not just football that is dangerous to young brains. Soccer has a surprisingly high level of head injuries, and ice hockey is arguably more dangerous than football because the helmets used are often unable to provide needed head protection.
No matter what the sport, Maland says “concussion awareness is important at all levels.”
The common signs of a possible concussion include loss of consciousness, balance issues, a glazed look in the eyes, amnesia, delayed response to questions, forgetting instructions, confusion about very obvious facts (the score, the game or practice location, the opponent); inappropriate crying or laughter, and vomiting.
It used to be that admitting you were “woozy” after a hard hit was a sign of weakness. Sports culture is always slow to change, but the days of just “shaking it off” are fading away in favor of making sure player safety is paramount.
“Concussions are going to happen in full contact sports,” Maland said. “Players and parents should learn how to recognize concussions and respond appropriately by immediately removing the athlete from play, and not letting them return until they’re cleared by an appropriate medical professional.”
At BUHS, as well as at Bellows Falls Union High School, there is a trainer on the sideline for every varsity football game. Coaches in Vermont have also received training on how to spot concussion symptoms to insure prompt treatment.
The sooner that a concussion is reported and treated, the sooner that an affected athlete will be able to return. Research backs this up.
A 2018 study by the University of Florida analyzed 506 sports-related concussions over a two-year period and found that those who got prompt care and ceased their activities once they got hurt missed about three fewer days of competition than those who delayed reporting their injury.
The study also found that prompt reporting reduced concussion symptoms by two fewer days and increased the likelihood of missing more than two weeks of participation by 39 percent.
CLF is sponsoring National Team Up Speak Up Week from Sept. 8-14 to encourage coaches, trainers, and team leaders to speak up if they suspect a teammate has a concussion.
“Every fall, our Team Up Speak Up program inspires coaches to encourage their athletes to speak up if they suspect a teammate has a concussion,” Maland said. “By activating teammates to look out for and report concussions, we are changing the culture and making concussion awareness an essential part of being a good teammate.”
Last year, more than 250 organizations, representing more than 5 million athletes, took the Team Up Speak Pledge. Find out how you can be a part of the effort by visiting concussionfoundation.org/programs/team-up-speak-up.
Rec. Dept. announces fall programs
• The Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department is accepting applications for a variety of youth sports programs this fall:
• Instructional soccer will be offered for grades 1-6. Players will learn dribbling techniques, passing, shooting and more. The program will be organized in separate groups: grades 1 and 2, grades 3 and 4, and grades 5 and 6. All ages will have one practice per week and one Saturday game per week.
In addition, the fifth- and sixth-grade teams will play both away and home games during the week and/or weekends. Practices will start the week of Sept. 9, and run through the end of October. The fee is $30 for Brattleboro residents and $45 for non-residents. This fee includes a t-shirt.
• Kindergarten soccer begins Monday, Sept. 9 and continues until Oct. 7. This five-week program will be held at Living Memorial Park’s Lower Field and is for children in Kindergarten. Participants can enroll for either a 4 p.m. or a 5 p.m. practice. Both groups have a limit of 25 participants.
Pre-Kindergarten soccer will be offered at 5 p.m., beginning Wednesday, Sept. 11 and continuing until Oct. 9. This five-week program will be held at Living Memorial Park’s Lower Field and is for children ages 4 ans 5 years old. Children must be 4 years old by registration. Pre-Kindergarten soccer has a limit of 20 participants.
Basic soccer skills will be taught in a fun format. Shin guards and sneakers or cleats are recommended. The fee for either the Pre-K or Kindergarten program is $20 for Brattleboro residents and $35 for non-residents. This fee includes a t-shirt.
All of the Rec’s youth soccer programs need volunteers to help the Program Coordinator. If interested, contact Erin Cooke as soon as possible at 802-254-5808, ext. 104.
• Field hockey will be offered on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 5 to 6 p.m., at West River Park on Route 30. This program is for those in grade 2-6. All levels and abilities are welcome, skills will be taught, and games will be played with other towns if there are enough participants. Games may be home or away and on various days of the week.
The cost for the program is $30 for Brattleboro residents and $45 for non-residents. Field hockey sticks are supplied by the Rec. Dept.
• Gymnastics classes begin Sept. 3 and continue until Oct. 28. The Rec. Dept.’s gymnastics program consists of traditional gymnastics classes, Ninja classes, parent tot classes, and more.
Classes run on various days and times and are for those 18 months to 17 years old. The cost for the program is $80 for Brattleboro residents and $95 for non-residents.
• The Rec. Dept. will be working with BUHS varsity football coach Chad Pacheco and BUHS football players to offer NFL Flag Football for those in grades 3-6. The season will begin Sunday, Sept. 8 and will run through Oct. 13.
Practices will be held at BUHS practice field and game field. Practices will occur on Sundays from 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. and games will immediately follow from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. This is a non-contact sport and mouth guards are required at all games and practices.
The fee is $40 for Brattleboro residents and $55 for non-residents, and includes secondary player insurance, a belt with flags, and a jersey. Note that any participants who enroll after Aug. 30 may not receive a belt or jersey in time for the first game due to shipping delays.
• If there are special needs required for any of these programs, let the Rec. Dept. know at least five days in advance.
To sign up for any of the Rec’s programs and events, visit www.brattleboro.org, “Like” them on Facebook, call 802-254-5808, or stop by the Recreation & Parks Department office at 207 Main St., Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 5 p.m.
Senior bowling roundup
• With two weeks to go in the spring/summer season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl, DDL (54-26) is starting to pull away from the field, with a six-game lead on the two teams tied for second — The Great Lakes and 3 Stooges (both 48-32).
MNR and BDR (both 45-35) are tied for fourth place, followed by Team 5 (43-37), JKL (38-42), Tres Amigos (37-43), The Dentists (35-45), Stayin’ Alive (33-47), Tornadoes (31-49), and Stars & Strikes (25-55).
Doris LaFortune had the women’s high handicap game (273) and series (690). Warren Corriveau Sr. had the men’s high handicap game (252) and Duane Schillemat had the high handicap series (660). 3 Stooges had the high team handicap game (697) and MNR had the high handicap series (1,893).
In scratch scoring, Warren Corriveau Sr. rolled a 241 to again lead the men with a 596 series. Schillemat rolled a 202 as part of his 540 series, while Jerry Dunham had a 192 game. Fred Bump had a 188 game, and Wayne Randall had a 182.
Dalzell once again led the women with a 509 series; she had a 192 game in that series. Pamela Greenblott had a 182 game as part of her 501 series, and LaFortune had a high game of 177.